Here’s How to Do Thanksgiving Like the Pioneer Woman

updated May 24, 2019
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Thanksgiving is a holiday that is all about the food. It’s a time to go full steam ahead and pull out all the stops to fill the table with a sea of the most impressively delicious and indulgent dishes.

And when delicious and indulgent are the name of the game, Ree Drummond, aka the Pioneer Woman, is the lady to turn to. These are the hallmarks of her most popular recipes that folks flock to on a daily basis. So we’re turning to her, and gathering Ree’s best tips — from her impressively juicy turkey to the ultra-creamy mashed potatoes to ranch-worthy table settings — to help you have your most deliciously indulgent Thanksgiving yet.

(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

1. Keep the heat low for an impressively juicy turkey.

A well-browned bird with succulent and extra-juicy meat is the hallmark of a really great Thanksgiving turkey. To get it just right, Ree’s recipe starts with an especially flavorful brine, but what sets her method apart is the low oven temperature. The turkey is roasted at 275°F for the first few hours, then finished at 350°F. Just remember to blot the turkey dry after brining and rinsing to achieve beautifully browned skin.

2. To give mashed potatoes an extra-creamy twist, mix in cream cheese.

The hallmark of really good mashed potatoes is the creamy, rich flavor only dairy can bring. While cream and butter are the usual duo we rely on, that’s just the starting point for Ree. She recommends stirring softened cream cheese into the pot of warm mashed potatoes (along with the cream and butter), which melts into the mash, making them exceptionally creamy. It also boosts the flavor with a subtle sweet tang.

(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

3. Start with bacon fat to give green beans more flavor.

If you don’t already have some on hand, you’ve still got plenty of time before Thanksgiving to cook up some crispy bacon so you’ll have bacon fat handy. In classic ranch-style fashion, Ree’s popular recipe for green beans ditches the creamy casserole treatment in favor of sautéing the aromatics and beans in rich, smoky bacon fat.

4. Use two types of bread to give stuffing more texture.

While Ree starts her stuffing with a batch of classic skillet cornbread (which she makes a couple of days before Thanksgiving), she also makes a point to mix in cubed Italian or crusty French bread, which she notes gives the stuffing a little extra chew.

(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

5. For an evenly crunchy candied nut topping, chop the nuts for your pecan pie.

Stepping away from tradition, Ree suggests chopping the nuts for pecan pie, rather than leaving them whole. The benefit is two-fold: Smaller pieces of pecans make for a more even and crunchy candied pie topping, and not having to navigate around whole pecans also makes the slices easier to cut and serve.

6. Make as much as you can ahead of time.

Ree’s tried-and-true secret to getting her full holiday dinner spread on the table in time for her clan: get a head start. She notes on her blog, “I have to start ahead of time or I can’t even hope to get anything done by the time all my relatives arrive.” Her timeline starts on Monday, and in the days leading up to Thanksgiving she takes advantage of all the make-ahead moments in her dinner recipes.

(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

7. Make the food the center of the table and keep the decor simple.

There’s a lot that can be gleaned from Ree’s holiday table spread, but the most important of all is to let all the food take center stage. There’s no need to stress about decorations or make things fancy just for the sake of making things fancy. A few basics, like votives, mini pumpkins or gourds, and cloth napkins will do just fine. And if you forgot to wash your cloth napkins, don’t sweat it — consider using paper towels (or bandanas!) this year instead.